SINGAPORE — Over half a year, a couple took out their anger and frustration on their maid, pinching her ears, rubbing soiled diapers in her face and making her drink water from a toilet bowl.
When the 33-year-old Indonesian maid finally fled from the abuse, she was found with likely permanent damage to her ears in the form of cauliflower ears and impaired hearing.
The couple who assaulted her are wife Ooi Wei Voen, a Singapore permanent resident and Malaysian, and Ooi's Singaporean husband Pang Chen Yong. Both are 37 years old and are IT engineers.
Each had suffered from a mental disorder during the time of offences, their defence lawyer told the court. They have two children, a son aged two and a girl who is nine months old.
Ooi was sentenced to 20 months' jail, while Pang was given four months’ jail on Monday (30 August). She pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt with a weapon, three counts of voluntarily causing hurt, with another six charges related to violence caused to the maid taken into consideration for her sentencing.
Pang pleaded guilty to three out of five counts of voluntarily causing hurt, with the remaining considered for sentencing.
Ooi hired the maid in April 2017. The maid, who was in Singapore for the first time, was tasked to care for the couple’s baby daughter in addition to cooking, cleaning, and other household chores in their Anchorvale flat. The victim would start work at 6.30am daily and ended only at 1am.
She would be left with the couple’s baby for most of the day, but Ooi would observe the maid’s movements through CCTV cameras and return to the unit in the day to check on her.
The helper did not have a phone. When the family brought her out on outings, the maid would be made to wear a tudung in order to hide her injuries. She was also forbidden to do laundry or throw trash as her injuries might be spotted by neighbours.
Whenever the helper made a mistake, the couple compelled her to record the mistakes and threatened to deduct her salary.
Made her sleep in wet clothes: Prosecution
Three months into her employment, the maid was hit by the couple over her alleged unsatisfactory performance.
Ooi would slap various parts of the maid’s face, or hit her hand with a metal ruler. She also forced the maid to do squats. Once, to punish the maid for failing to ensure the laundry was dry, the woman instructed the maid to wet her clothes and sleep in them. The maid slept overnight in her wet clothes.
Pang would kick or hit the maid, doing so even as the maid lay on the ground. He also hit her arms with a saucepan, only stopping when the handle broke.
On one occasion, after noticing his baby crying, Pang grabbed, pulled and scratched the maid’s ears until her left ear bled and was swollen. He blamed the maid for being late in preparing the baby’s milk.
A few days later, Ooi slapped the same ear after perceiving that the maid had sneezed near the baby’s bottle.
In August 2017, while the family was staying in a Sentosa hotel, Ooi was upset that the baby’s milk was too hot. She pounded the helper’s forehead and eyes. The maid’s eye swelled and she was unable to see. Ooi forced the maid to wear a tudung when they left the hotel, in order to cover up the injuries.
In October 2017, angered that the baby cried and refused to sleep, Ooi grabbed a thermos flask from the dining table, opened the cover and poured hot water on the maid’s face. The maid had filled the thermos flask with boiling water that morning.
Between July and November 2017, upset with the maid, Ooi rubbed her face with a pair of diapers which was soiled with the baby’s faeces. She also instructed the maid to drink water from a toilet bowl, telling the maid that she would stand and watch her do it. Left with no choice, the maid scooped water from the toilet bowl.
On 22 November 2017, Ooi brought the maid for her mandatory clinic checkup and lied to the doctor that the maid had been bitten by an unknown insect a few days prior. The maid was given antibiotics to take for a week.
The swelling did not subside by 30 December 2017 and Ooi brought the maid to another doctor. This time, Ooi made the maid lie that she had sustained the ear injury from being hit by her husband in Indonesia two years ago. She was prescribed antibiotics again and asked to seek help from a specialist. She was not brought to a specialist.
Sometime before Christmas in 2017, Ooi had observed through CCTV footage that the maid had left her children unattended. Ooi took half day leave from work to return home to question the maid on why she doing other chores when the children had not slept. The woman then took a metal ladle to hit the maid’s thighs.
The helper fainted from pain. She later woke up but continued to feel giddy. She discovered that her legs were swelling and she had sustained multiple bruises. The victim had problems walking a few days after.
On 1 January 2018, at about 1am, Pang was upset with the victim for not informing him that the baby had a fever. He picked up a plastic scoop, splashed cold water onto the maid’s head before hitting her head with the scoop.
Ooi then scolded the maid, kicked her stomach and caused her to fall against a plastic cabinet.
After the assault, the maid ran away as the couple were attending to the baby. She sought help from a maid who was passing by and was taken to a police station.
She was treated before being referred to an ear nose throat specialist for her cauliflower ear. Her left ear had a membrane perforation and she was found to have mild to moderate conductive hearing loss on the same ear. The injury is likely to be a permanent deformity.
Both accused have mental disorders: Defence lawyer
In mitigation, the couple’s lawyer Mervyn Tan referred to the medical reports of both accused. Pang, who has major depressive disorder, had been trying to cope with the family’s circumstances and “was not fully himself”. Tan asked for a mandatory treatment order for Pang.
Ooi had post-natal depression and could not cope with caring for her children.
Even after the assaults, there was some reconciliation between the parties, and the couple apologised on many occasions to the maid, said Tan. The couple still brought the maid out to eat and entrusted her with the children, he added.
“I don’t want a picture to be painted of a (totally) evil couple everyday hurting the maid just when they get frustrated,” said Tan, who said there were periods where the unit acted as a normal family, and periods where the couple lost control and hurt the maid on the “spur of the moment”.
“The family was alone without help as Ooi’s parents were in Kuala Lumpur. For both of them, they are a young family with two young children, the situation is very difficult for them. (They have) no other persons here in Singapore, the parents on other side have dementia and old age (and are) not able to leave Kuala Lumpur because of the lockdown, they have no one to turn to,” he said.
The couple has since made voluntary compensation to the maid and the Ministry of Manpower has facilitated full repayment of the victim’s salary.
The judge allowed Ooi to commence her sentence in January after Pang completes his sentence, so that either parent can still care for their children.
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